At Catalina Direct we are always on the lookout for products that are of better quality or a better value for our fellow Catalina owners. In this case we offer both.
Great quality: For over 40 years we have sold the original equipment teak handrails Catalina used even on their very first boats. They were produced by a company who supplied teak parts for tens of thousands of boats by builders all over Southern California. The original company ceased operations several years ago. Fortunately, one of their long term employees still has the original machines and patterns and continues to supply the original handrails to us.
Great value: If changes in the dimensions aren't critical to you, there is money to be saved by purchasing imported teak handrails rather than the OEM version. The imported parts are not exactly the same nor are they as beefy as the OEM handrails. The mounting pads are smaller and their center to center spacing is about 1/16" greater per loop.
As you can see, the imported handrails have a smaller footprint than the OEM versions. Mount the imported handrails and you will see bright, shiny fiberglass exposed around each mounting pad.
A smaller footprint means that their will be bright, shiny fiberglass exposed at each mounting pad.
Side by side view showing the longer footprint of the OEM over the imported version. The feet measure 3-1/8" long at ends of the OEM version. The imported version measures 2-5/8".
Due to the difference in both the size and location of the mounting pads, the fastener holes will not fall in the center of every pad. To properly locate the mounting holes in the new handrail: Drill a pilot hole in the center of one of the middle mounting pads. Use that hole to test mount the handrail to the boat, centered over the area where your old handrail was mounted. Mark for the remaining holes using a drill from below. Remove the handrail and you will see that the position of the new mounting holes are not in the center of the pads, but are likely close enough.
The imported handrails are thinner than the OEM version. The extra thickness of the OEM version provides for more seasons of refinishing.
Handrail availablity: Likely due to shipping expense as well as lower demand, long imported handrails are not available. Seven loop is the longest available. Even domestic OEM handrails are difficult to get in long lengths. Our vendor has to wait until there is raw teak of sufficient length and quality available to accomocate production of long handrails before they can be made.
Some customers have chosen to replace very long handrails with two shorter ones. Early Catalina 34's for example use an 11 loop handrail. Mounting two 5 loop handrails with a short gap between is a reasonable solution and is much less expensive for both the handrails and the shipping.
Dimensions: Every imported handrail you to find, regardless of source, likely has the exact same dimensions. It appears that every importer buys them from the same factory in Asia. They are all made to metric dimensions, not imperial dimensions. That is why they have 10-1/16" long loops. They are nominaly 25.5 cm, not 10 inches.
As with any component mounted on deck, be sure to properly seal the feet against water intrusion. We recommend 3M 4000 sealant due to its UV resistance and ability to be removed when it comes time to refinish your teak. By the way, our handrail spats will cover either the American made or imported handrails nicely. Adding covers will prolong the life of whatever finish you choose.